Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice opens this weekend with mostly negative reviews. In response to this, cast members and even director Zack Snyder have responded with their own damage control responses insinuating that critics are not the definitive source for quantifying the quality of his film, and that fans would ultimately respond with box office numbers. <see his and the cast’s exact response quotes at bottom>
While that may have been true, ten or fifteen years ago, today’s critics represent all walks of life, ages, and share a common core love of film. While some are more talented with their word choices, the gist is that no one gets into the business of being a film critic to be negative but rather to share their love and passion for the story depicted on the big screen.
Last Tuesday night critics across the country screened what was easily one of the top three most anticipated films of 2016, if not the number one for many. Before the screening a video message from Zack Snyder personally asking fans (and critics in the audience) not to spoil the film with broadcasting details or plot twists. Ultimately, though, he spoiled the film for fans making what could have been the most epic superhero film to date into what critics are calling a disaster. Here’s a snapshot from 18 of the top writers for byteclay.com representing all walks or life, and from regions across the country.
Chris Sawin of Houston (Houston Film Critics Society) says “It’s ridiculous how little the massive $250 million blockbuster does right…The way “Batman v Superman” connects the events of “Man of Steel” to the Bruce Wayne character is also quite satisfying. Seeing the Zod/Superman fight from his perspective is one of the highlights of the film…Unfortunately just about everything else in the film rubs you the wrong way or is genuinely intriguing at surface level and completely unsatisfying underneath.” 2/5
Jason Roestel of Seattle (original film critic of Examiner’s first team of writers) says “It’s a fussy, disorganized, mega-negative bust. A cinematic freighter, sluggish and industrial, with a single course – to create cash generating franchises for Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment – yet with absolutely no direction.” 2/5
R Adamic of San Jose (18 years as an on-air radio DJ in California) says the film is “a convoluted mess… This film may hold some kind of record for the sheer amount of plot holes it features. Almost every character automatically knows things important to the plot without any reason or way to know such things…the difference between a DC movie and Marvel movie is becoming abundantly clear. Marvel movies are put together by a team of people who have actually worked for Marvel Comics; DC movies, on the other hand, are put together by people at Warner Bros. who blindly crank out a script after playing a bad game of telephone with someone at DC.” (no score)
In support, Travis Hopson of DC (member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association) says “Batman v Superman” isn’t without its problems, but let’s be honest, most will be overcome by the sheer spectacle of watching the two greatest gladiators in DC Comics history going toe-to-toe.” 4/5
Peter M. Roche of Cleveland, says “watchable but weighty. The picture is loud and blockbuster big as expected, but it also feels bloated. We have no problem settling in for a little exposition and character development, but Snyder tasked with setting up the next DC installment—shoehorns superhero cameos and Easter eggs into an already compressed narrative, and it takes too long for subplots to converge and for storytelling tumblers to click satisfyingly into place.” 3/5
Brian Zitzelman of Seattle says “By trying to cram so many characters, set-ups for future films and pseudo plot-twists, everything gets the short-shrift, even at 150 minutes….” 1/5
Tom Santilli of Detroit (President of the Detroit Film Critics Society, member of the Online Film Critics Society and the Broadcast Film Critics Association) says the film “is too big to fail…It’s a loud, long, ambitiously fierce and furious film. It isn’t a great film. For me though, it was much better than Man of Steel, and much better than I had expected going in with incredibly low expectations.” 3/5
George Thomas of Cleveland (previously syndicated and an eight-year member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association) says “soars some, crashes plenty from ambition… Batman v. Superman has its share of problems, including a feeling that the pressure for success harmed the narrative and that Snyder’s operatic ambitions did significant harm to the fun quotient.” 2.5 out of 5
Paul Carlson of Seattle says “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” isn’t merely a bad movie because it will certainly disappoint fanboys/fangirls — this is simply a heartless spectacle that trudges to its main event.” 2/5
Tim Estiloz of Boston (member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association) says “this DC Comics attempt to replicate the magic, humor and sheer fun that led to Marvel’s multi-superhero packed “The Avengers” is, instead, an overly dark, excessively brooding, ultimately overstuffed mess whose failing lies squarely at the feet of its director Zack Snyder….<the film> is a dark and dour disappointment.” (no score)
Timothy English of Kansas City (Member of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle and Broadcast Film Critics Circle) says the film is the “Dawn of disappointment… The film is a narrative mess. It’s a mess. A train wreck… The film is a beautiful disaster. As incomprehensible as it is, there are moments of glorious promise that make it hard to look away. But make no mistake, this is a huge step in the wrong direction…” 2.5 out of 5
Sandra Perez of Dallas (part of the Dallas Press) says “thanks to several story telling flaws and a few questionable characters, don’t expect to be amazed… Too much of the two and a half hours is spent featuring the public’s opinion on Superman, which, frankly, we don’t care much about. We really only need two scenes — one of Superman’s fans and the another of the people who hold him responsible for the disasters…There are also a few scenes that feel out of place. I expected an ending that would make me feel excited for future movies with the heroes, but a depressing finale makes that impossible.” 3.5 out of 5
Tom Clocker of Baltimore says “The first hour or so may be a bumpy ride for moviegoers who are not hardcore comic fans, but the second half of the film more than makes up for the rough start. And pay close attention to the smaller scale fights in this one.” 4/5
Mike Massie of Phoenix (Phoenix Film Critics Society) says “In Its efforts to produce an epic feel (certainly in length), the pacing slows to a crawl; it takes nearly an hour before the first real action scene transpires. And even after vehicles explode and buildings are leveled, the characters fail to make an impact. Love, loss, and sacrifice have never been so non affecting.” no score
David Wangberg of Chico says “it’s overlong and messy bore…too meandering and unfocused on exactly what it wants to be, and the setting up of the “Justice League” movies feels forced. The cinematography looks fine, but the action scenes aren’t as breathtaking as they should be, with some resorting to unsettling shaky cam.” 2/5
Heather Turk of LasVegas, says “audiences can’t help but feel that the hype and secrecy surrounding “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” has to lead up to something more than the climax director Zack Snyder (“300”) ultimately delivers. There’s no big surprise revealed for die-hard comic book fans, and the final action sequence isn’t anything too spectacular.” 3/5
James Dooley of Boston says “Zack Snyder’s direction was all over the place, with scenes seemingly stitched together….Henry Cavill, seemingly directed to have as little charisma as possible by Snyder, who is often very wooden in many scenes, especially character building scenes that sort of took away from the movie. Jesse Eisenberg also missed the mark completely as Lex Luthor, devolving him into a ticky, high pitched weasel that never seemed threatening…The performances of this movie are a mixed bag, but the clear standout is Ben Affleck, who shines as Bruce Wayne AND Batman.”
Allie Hanley (writer of this article) of Austin says “I was there in the third row of Hall H when Snyder announced this film and that Batman would be part of it. Yet I kept my expectations in check. I was disappointed in Affleck being cast but can’t find fault with his performance.
However, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman had absolutely no effect positive or negative on the film, and Eisenberg’s performance was just an absolute mess and made no sense whatsoever. Cavill was obviously tasked with toning down Superman’s persona into something bordering on an angry looking manikin (with the exception of the bath tub scene) under Snyder’s direction.
I read the comics, watched Justice League growing up, and read the novels about Doomsday etc, and wasn’t surprised by the ending; but the route to get there was an absolute mess in the film. Snyder missed the most important part of telling a story in lieu of action scenes… he forgot to make us care about the characters.” 2/5
In response to the crazy amount of negative reviews here is what Snyder and the cast responded with:
Zack Snyder: “I’m a comic book guy, and I made the movie based as much as I could on that aesthetic, and so I don’t know how else to do it 100%. So, it is what it is, you know?”
Henry Cavill: “The interesting thing is that we get the critics who have their personal opinions. And the thing about personal opinions is that they always come from a place. And there’s a preconceived idea which you have to get past a critic before you start writing your article or your review, and that affects everything.”
Ben Affleck: [Right after Henry Cavill] “I agree.”
Gal Gadot: “I think the movie’s great. I think this movie is huge, massive. I think that Zack did fantastic work bringing Superman’s world and Batman’s world into one movie and setting the ground for so many more characters to come in the future in such an interesting way.”
Jesse Eisenberg: “I can’t read stuff. I don’t even watch the movies I’m in. I get very critical…I don’t like reading stuff, either. I find it very distracting.” [After being told that most critics loved his performance] “In that case I’ll read everything and I look forward to seeing the film!”
Amy Adams: “I know that Zack doesn’t make the movies, and none of us are making the movies, for the critics, so to speak. You can’t kinda go into it with that perspective. I know we really hope the fans like it, and so far, the reaction’s been really positive on that front.”
Bottom line: Overall consensus is that the film spends too much time developing a story line (Superman and his responsibility for his actions) that in the end has no resolution (nor do we care) because of a lack of character development. Too much effort is put into the action scenes and not balancing the story with meaningful character exchanges.
In regards to the cast: Overall, Ben Affleck does a solid job as Batman (surprisingly), Eisenberg’s performance was manic and unbelievable, Gadot’s performance was mixed but more on the positive side just for the fact that Wonder Woman is finally in a big blockbuster, and finally Cavill has already proved he’s a better actor than he was allowed to be in this film.
Finally, everyone agrees that the film will be a blockbuster regardless of the opinions because it’s “Superman and Batman” and in the end those two characters are synonymous with America’s love affair with super heroes and people are going to go to the theaters regardless of the low opinions. However, those who know film, and know the source material, know that it could have been so much more. Regardless and as it stands, it’s still a lousy film despite the visuals (16 out of 18 writers).